Tag Archives: drive modes

2022 Nissan Pathfinder Platinum 4WD

Boxy, gray, two-tone, 3-row Pathfinder a trend setter …

Sometimes when I write my reviews I feel like a broken record (remember those?) repeating the same info over and over.

Part of that is because trends develop fast in the car world and once one manufacturer does something for style, color, features, the others soon fall in line. Sometimes too I test a vehicle as a pre-production model, then get the standard production model a few months later.

That was the case with Nissan’s new 2022 Pathfinder. Plus it was a top-end Platinum 4WD version, same as I’d tested last fall.

For the most part, all was the same, save for a better driver’s seat butt pocket that was not as hard as last time. That or my tush has softened. Whatever!

Now I also see the trends that Pathfinder exhibits that I wasn’t as aware of previously.

First, two-tone SUVs and crossovers are now a thing, a good thing I might add. The trend is giving the roof a different paint scheme than the body. In this case, the roof was black and the body a destroyer gray. That’s another trend, blah gray paint like a battleship, jet fighter or a utility truck. Funny though, the trendy two-tone paint scheme costs $350 extra.

Boxy styling is back for SUVs too. It’s what carmakers call “muscular” and means wheel wells are more pronounced, hoods flatter and fenders squared. This counteracts the more streamlined styling with rounded edges of recent years, although I’d argue SUVs nearly all look pretty boxy, always have.

Another trend? To improve fuel economy and smooth shifts for a more luxurious feel, carmakers have moved to 8- to 10-speed automatic transmissions. Nissan’s is a 9-speed and silky smooth. That helps keep the 3.5-liter V6 calmed even as the 4,672-pound SUV runs up to highway speeds. So engine noise is modest and the cabin remains quiet, so as not to disturb the family’s social media experiences.

Watch Mark’s video: Mark Savage reviews to 2022 Nissan Pathfinder Platinum Edition – YouTube

Luxury interiors, often even in the $35,000-$40,000 price range (that’s about $10 grand short of the average vehicle price now) are trendy too. That means leather with various names taken from Italian fishing villages to California wine country counties. Nissan’s are semi-aniline leather and were a handsome medium brown with black trim on seats, doors and dash.

Luxury leather interior? Check!

This makes sense. I mean, where do you spend hours and hours? Inside your vehicle, naturally. So make it as comfy and lounge-like as possible.

The Pathfinder really looks posh with its quilted leather all around and brushed metal look trim on the outer air vents, door armrests faces and then piano gloss black trim around the various screens and as console trim. Downside to the gloss finish? It’s very reflective on sunny days.

The better news is that these seats are well formed and supportive and as hinted at before, the butt pockets are much softer than the pre-pro model, so fine for long drives with the fam aboard.

Third row seat is tight, but easily accessed.

That’s easier now too due to the trend of adding a third-row seat to every SUV beyond compact status. Nissan proudly states this third row has more legroom than some competitors, but let’s be realistic, nearly all third rows are meant for kids younger than 8. Leg and knee room is tight unless the second row seats are moved as far forward as possible.

More good news, these row two seats are one-touch, meaning punch a button on the back and the second row seats backs fold forward and the entire seat slides forward for easier access to row three. That’s appreciated.

Note the flat-bottom wheel, which Nissan and I love.

Also a trend, a bench seat is optional for row two, which would allow a family to haul eight, one more than a minivan. Practically speaking, most folks will opt for captain’s chairs in row two and limit seating to seven. That creates four very comfy seats, which is how many folks populate most vehicles, including midsize and large SUVs.

Other interior trends include dual-pane panoramic sunroofs and fancy stereos. Both are standard on the Platinum model, the stereo being a Bose premium model with dual subwoofers.

Nissan, wisely, is fond of flat-bottom steering wheels which are good at creating more room for a driver’s knees when exiting and also look sportier, a double win.

And many drive modes, here controlled on the console by a rotating dial, are as necessary as giant wheels and tires these days. Pathfinder touts seven drive modes from Mud/Rut and Snow, to Eco and Sport. Yes, Sport firms the steering effort some and mildly aids acceleration.

Supposedly the more muscular styling for Pathfinder (and others) insinuates it is more off-road rugged and certainly I splashed around some sloppy tall grass and muck in a field to assure the Nissan was up to it. It is, but as the SUVs approach the cost of a home it seems less and less likely owners will torture them in rough terrain.

I must admit the tested gray Pathfinder Platinum is not as costly as, say, the giant new Jeeps I recently tested, but still, at $50,665 the monthly payments are going to be substantial.

A base rear-drive S model lists at $34,855 and adding 4WD to any of the Pathfinder’s four trims adds $1,900. The popular SV trim rolls at about $37,500 and the SL at about $42 grand. This Platinum model started at $49,265, including delivery.

For the record I got 23.3 mpg in a 60/40 mix of highway to city driving and the EPA rates this model at 20 mpg city and 25 mpg highway. One hopes a hybrid version is in the works to help boost those numbers, although I must say filling the tank was not as shocking as with the previous week’s Jeep Grand Wagoneer that managed just 12.3 mpg. Pathfinder is way more family budget friendly.

Can you read the vehicle name OK?

Other pluses include the full bevy of safety equipment. Nissan wisely makes Safety Shield 360 standard on all models. That includes lane departure warning (vibrates the steering wheel and buzzes a bit), blind-spot warning, rear cross-traffic alert and front and rear emergency braking plus high-beam headlight assist.

Moving up to the SV trim adds ProPilot the adaptive cruise control and semi-autonomous driving aids, and by the Platinum level there’s also a 10.8-inch head-up display. Sadly that smart cruise system only works with the semi-autonomous system, so you can’t shut off the buzzing, vibrating lane warning system that can annoy during the lane dodging of construction season.

Standard too are a 9-inch infotainment screen (up from 8 in the two lower trims), a WiFi hotspot, 360-degree camera, that flat-bottom steering wheel, Nissan Connect Services via Sirius XM, wireless Apple Car Play, but not wireless Android Auto.

Goodies added in the Platinum model are heated and cooled front seats and heated steering wheel, plus heated rear seats, that dual-pane sunroof, 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, wireless phone charger, driver seat memory, power tilt/telescope steering wheel and memory, that the HUD.

I’m also a fan of the power hatch, under cargo floor storage and the fact Pathfinder can tow up to 6,000 lbs., when properly equipped.

Not a fan though of the stiff ride in what should be a luxurious family SUV. I would never call this a severe ride, but it’s more than firm. All road imperfections are felt as the ute seems to not soak up the rises in the pavement, but deliver a bump to the rump.

Take a ride though to assess how the ride affects your derriere. If you’re after a large compact ute with luxury leanings inside the Pathfinder offers a roomy quiet interior and plenty of power and amenities.

Others to compare include Toyota’s Highlander, Kia’s Telluride, Hyundai’s Palisade (recently reviewed here), the Ford Explorer Timberline, and Subaru’s Ascent.

FAST STATS: 2022 Nissan Pathfinder Platinum 4WD

Hits: Roomy 3-row interior, stout power, 7 drive modes, flat-bottom steering wheel, solid standard safety equipment plus heated/cooled front seats, heated steering wheel, dual-pane sunroof. Big instrument display and easy-to-use info screen, storage under cargo floor, power hatch and tilt/telescope wheel, along with quiet, stylish interior.

Misses: Stiff ride, limited foot and knee room in third row, smart cruise engages semi-autonomous driving feature, which can’t be disengaged while in cruise mode.

Made in: Smyrna, Tenn.

Engine: 3.5-liter V6, 284 hp / 259 torque

Transmission: 9-speed automatic

Weight: 4,672 lbs.

Wheelbase: 114.2 in.

Length: 197.7 in.

Cargo: 16.6/45.0/80.5 cu.ft.

Tow: 6,000 lbs.

MPG: 20/25

MPG: 23.3 (tested)

Base Price: $49,265 (includes delivery)

Invoice: N.A.

Major Options:

Carpeted floor mats, captain’s chairs, $255

Lighting package (illuminated kick plates, welcome lighting), $795

2-tone paint, $350

Test vehicle: $50,665

Sources: Nissan, www.kbb.com

Photos: Mark Savage

2021 Lexus IS 350 F Sport AWD

Sport luxury sedan goodness; if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it …

Sorry if this sounds like a broken record (remember those?), but Lexus refuses to mess with success when it comes to its IS 350 sports sedan.

For instance, Lexus sticks with its trusted 3.5-liter V6, keeps the IS 350’s overall dimensions within an inch of its predecessor and delivers the same smooth luxury feel to go along with ample performance to still claim it as one of the best sports sedans for less than $60,000.

OK, so what DID change?

The tested Iridium Silver ($425 extra) test car, an AWD model, looks sleeker than its earlier models because Lexus has gone with its newer thin swept taillights and full-width light bar in back and thinner headlights that meld perfectly into the stylish creases of the hood and front fenders.

The look is stunning, although some may still argue that the large angular spindle grille here is garish. Well, pish posh because all luxury makes are going shamelessly crazy with large, visually striking grilles bedecked with monster logos on their noses. It’s ironic because all the grilles are uniquely shaped to identify the brand, so logos are mostly unnecessary accouterments.

Beyond styling, Lexus has strengthened its chassis, which makes for easier ride and handling tuning, while also cutting weight a bit with aluminum vs. steel control arms and lighter springs and anti-roll bars.

The standard touchscreen has been upgraded to a 10.3-incher, perfect for this size car, and the seats are covered in NuLux, a faux leather. You’ll likely not be able to tell it from the real deal as the surface is soft as a baby’s bottom.

For the tested F Sport the suspension and brakes are upgraded. There’s a double wishbone front suspension with gas shocks and a stabilizer bar and a multi-link rear suspension. Brakes feature 4-piston calipers with 13.1-inch discs in front and 11.7-inchers in back. Stopping power is excellent.

View Mark’s video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qTgbQ-TaHio

Likewise the rest of the IS’s performance is what you’d expect. The 311-horse V6 is strong and will quickly propel the AWD sedan to highway speeds, although adding a turbo would surely make acceleration more exciting. That AWD system favors the rear wheels unless there’s a slippery surface, so the speed nearly always comes from those back wheels, 19-inchers, but more on that in a minute.

The V6 in the AWD models is linked with a Lexus 6-speed automatic, which some might think outdated as 8- to 10-speed trannies are grace many a luxu model as they mildly help boost gas mileage. But this one is perfectly suited here and delivers buttery smooth shifts. If you go with the rear-drive model an 8-speed automatic comes standard.

Handling and ride are pure sports sedan. You can toss the IS into corners with confidence as the steering is quick and the grip as sticky as a toddler’s fingers. No body lean either, and all that improves in Sport and Sport+ drive modes that are part of the F Sport package. The car also offers Eco, Normal and Custom modes.

Ride is firm but so well controlled by all those lighter and new suspension pieces that you feel a jiggle on railroad tracks or pot holes, but never a sharp rap to the tailbone. Ride is as confident and plush as the steering is taunt.

Inside the biggest upgrade, in my little mind, is the fine 10.3-inch touchscreen that also includes a radio tuning knob below it. No longer must you rely on the awkward haptic touchpad for tuning as you drive. The pad is still there to help access other screen functions, but is rarely needed. Finally!

Red enough for ya? Seats are comfy and look sharp too!

Lexus stylists are not shy, as the grille would indicate, so they deliver a black over red interior with matte medium red NuLuxe seats. The soft fake leather looks great too. Plus Lexus continues with some of the best seats in the biz with awesome hip and kidney support, a real pleasure to ride in these power seats. Plus the fronts are heated and cooled. Bravo!

Head and legroom are good up front and moderate in back, but if no one is super tall in the family everyone will fit comfortably. If you need more legroom, consider the Lexus ES.

Complementing the red seats is black dash and door trim at the tops along with red door trim with faux leather inserts below that. The lower dash is red plastic too and this is where I had a quibble. I expected a better finish. The lower door and dash plastic looked a bit too shiny and, well, like plastic. A matte finish would squelch some of that luster to better match the seats and upper dash.

Ironically, the rear seat door trim seemed much more muted and acceptable. Maybe the front trim was a one-off test car finish issue.

That black dash features red stitching as does the leather steering wheel, which really should be a flat-bottom number for a sport sedan. That would create easier entry and exit for driver knees. Good news though, the steering wheel is heated, much needed in northern climes.

Sharp rear lights with a full tail light bar!

The rest of the IS dash layout is fine, the touchscreen a winner, and the controls all easy to use and figure out. Oh, and Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are now standard.

The test car added mucho options, as seems the practice on Lexus models of late. A power sunroof, not panoramic but fine, adds $1,100. The other major interior add-on was a souped up Mark Levinson audio and navigation system with voice recognition. For $2,740 you get the touchscreen and nav, but the audio is crazy powerful with 1,800 watts (about 1,000 extra over the norm) and 17 speakers. Old folks with hearing difficulties will have no trouble grooving to Motown tunes now. And get this, there’s a CD player. Yes! Again, catering to the older demographic that may be intending to buy a luxo sport sedan.

What the IS doesn’t have is a wireless phone charger, a big oversight. Sure, you can plug a phone into outlets inside the console’s big well-padded armrest/storage box, but if you’re like me, it’s a lot easier to forget a charging phone that’s out of sight.

Other options include a park assist program with panoramic view mirror that runs $1,400 and the F Sport Dynamic Handling Package costing $3,800. It includes flat black BBS wheels that give the IS a high-perf look. And as mentioned above the sporty drive modes and an adaptive suspension system are part of the deal. Ash trim adds to the interior’s glitz and a small carbon fiber trunk lid spoiler are included in the package, along with a Smart access card key.

A triple beam LED headlight package for $1,250 is the last major spiff, but a few others provide thick plastic floor mats and illuminated door sills, etc.

Standard are all the electronic safety features you’d assume on a luxury sedan, and good news, the lane departure system can be turned off for easier city and construction zone driving.

The test car started at $45,925, with delivery, and all those options pushed it to $58,040. That’s well into the luxury range, but not unusual among competitors, such as the BMW 3 Series, Audi A4, Acura TLC, Mercedes C Class and Volvo S60.

It’s also not unusual for a high-performance car to need premium fuel. That’s suggested for this V6, although it will run fine on lower octane, just not as peppy. Gas mileage is just OK tough. I got 21.5 mpg in a mix of city and highway while the EPA rates this at 19 mpg city and 26 mpg highway.

Fancy BBS black wheels and giant rotors set off the wheels.

If less power is OK by you, then save some cash with an IS 300 that features a turbocharged I4 that creates 241 horsepower. It lists at $39,000 and also comes with a smaller 8-inch touchscreen. Adding AWD costs $2,000 but also upgrades to a V6 packing 260 horses.

For luxury sport sedans the IS continues to be a solid and comfortable choice, plus it includes a 6-year, 70,000-mile powertrain warranty. Its reliability and strong resale value don’t hurt either!

FAST STATS: 2021 Lexus IS 350 AWD

Hits: Sporty styling inside and out, smooth power and shifts, quick handling, AWD and big-time brakes. Large touchscreen, heated wheel and heated/cooled seats, sunroof, fancy audio system plus CD player, and lane departure control can be shut off.

Misses: No wireless charger, touchpad still a backup for touchscreen, no turbo to boost V6 power, front door panels/lower dash too plastic looking, and some would say grille is garish.

Made in: Tahara, Aichi, Japan

Engine: 3.5-liter V6, 311 hp

Transmission: 6-speed automatic

Weight: 3,800+ lbs.

Wheelbase: 110.2 in.

Length: 185.4 in.

Cargo: 10.8 cu.ft.

MPG: 19/26

MPG: 21.5 (tested)

Base Price: $45,925 (includes delivery)

Invoice: $42,782

Major Options:

Intuitive Parking Assist w/auto braking, rear pedestrian detection, and panoramic view mirror, $1,400

F Sport Dynamic Handling package (19-inch flat black BBS wheels, drive mode select w/Sport/Sport+/Custom modes, adaptive variable suspension, Ash heated/wood-trimmed steering wheel and interior trim, carbon fiber rear spoiler, Smart access card key), $3,800

Triple beam LED headlights, $1,250

Nav/Mark Levinson audio package (nav system w/10.3-in. touchscreen, Enform Dynamic nav system, voice command, destination assist, Mark Levinson 17-speaker and 1,800 watt premium surround sound system), $2,750

Premium paint, $425

Power moonroof, $1,100

Illuminated trunk sill, $450

Rear bumper applique, $85

Illuminated door sills, $425

All-weather floor mats, trunk tray, $290

Door edge guards, $140

Test vehicle: $58,040

Sources: Lexus, www.kbb.com

Photos: Mark Savage

2020 Subaru WRX STI

WRX STI is fast, furious and noisy as …

You know that sound of running a vacuum and it sucking up a load of dirt, gravel and maybe some road salt in winter. Now imagine that sound rattling around in each wheel well of your car.

That’s the first impression of Subaru’s new WRX STI, the raciest of Subies. The lasting impression is of its racer like speed and handling. Continue reading 2020 Subaru WRX STI

2020 Lexus RX 350 AWD F Sport

Lexus RX 350  defines the luxury crossover market …

One reason the Lexus RX 350 continues to be a runaway best seller for Toyota’s upscale brand is its near perfection in defining what has become the luxury crossover market.

Oh, there’s longevity on its side to be sure. The 2020 model is the sixth generation for the mid-size crossover based on Toyota’s Highlander platform. But each year Lexus tweaks it a bit, like a plastic surgeon making nips and tucks on a successful movie star’s nose and chin. Continue reading 2020 Lexus RX 350 AWD F Sport

2021 Toyota Corolla LE Hybrid

Corolla Hybrid simply fine, delivers stellar MPG … 

After weeks in high-powered muscle and sports cars it was refreshing to get back into an easy-driving sedan with simple controls and stellar gas mileage.

This, my friends, is the beauty of a Toyota Corolla LE Hybrid. Oh, it’s not exterior beauty as with the others. However, Toyota’s 2021 Corolla is pleasant enough looking.

No, this is simplicity and value delivered in a handsome package so you don’t feel like a geek driving an odd-shaped hybrid that garners road rage among those who prefer power over efficiency. Continue reading 2021 Toyota Corolla LE Hybrid

2021 Kia Seltos SX Turbo AWD

Seltos Turbo a bright spot among crossovers …

Some cars (or crossovers) just make you feel good. VW’s Beetle was one, the Mini Cooper another. It may be their looks, their ease of driving, their usefulness or simply their price.

Sometimes it’s all of that, which brings me to this week’s drive, the Kia Seltos SX Turbo AWD. Again, that’s a lot to take in from a name standpoint, but simply put, this is a fine compact crossover that borders on cute. Mine was a retina-burning Starbright Yellow, which I initially nicknamed Electric Mustard, but Electric Dijon may be more accurate.

This is not a vehicle that would be hard to find in a parking lot. It stands out like a scorching yellow dot in a black and white minimalist’s painting. It’s Shakira at an Amish picnic! Continue reading 2021 Kia Seltos SX Turbo AWD

2019 Kia Niro EV EX Premium

Kia’s electric crossover looks good, drives well …

Our electric car future receives another jolt of energy with the arrival of Kia’s Niro EV.

If you believe electrics are a fad or experiment and that internal combustion is the only way to go, well you’re in for a shock, ultimately. Because all the carmakers are rushing to get full electric cars and crossovers onto the highways as quickly as they can. Short-term the hybrids and plug-in hybrids are the way to go, but with mainstream cars like the Niro being electrified, it’s only a matter of time until one is in your driveway. Continue reading 2019 Kia Niro EV EX Premium

2020 Mercedes-Benz GLC 300 4Matic

Mercedes GLC 300 a lively, luxury ride …

Coming off an underwhelming performance from a Ranger Rover Evoque, the new Mercedes-Benz GLC (great little crossover?) was an absolute dream to drive.

The Benz felt more lively with better power, better handling and a better ride than the Evoque, and while still pricey, it costs $4 grand less. Granted the Evoque is better looking than the staid, yet stately, Mercedes, but do you want looks or performance? Oh, and everything worked on the Mercedes in contrast with the Rover. Continue reading 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLC 300 4Matic

2019 Hyundai Ioniq Plug-in Hybrid Limited

Hyundai hybrid is low cost from the get-go …

Hybrids in general, and plug-in hybrids in particular, are becoming the way to go for families looking for the best fuel economy, or socially conscious buyers wanting to reduce their carbon footprint.

Fortunately the hybrid market just keeps expanding while becoming more affordable. Continue reading 2019 Hyundai Ioniq Plug-in Hybrid Limited

2019 Audi Q8 quattro

Audi Q8 quattro a loaded fancy-pants SUV …

Luxury and prestige have their price, and for Audi’s largest SUV, the Q8, that starts at $68,395.

Luckily that includes delivery charges, and to be honest, quite a lot else. Think of this as the SUV version of Audi’s fancy pants A8 sedan, which as a top-line model you’d expect to be loaded. Continue reading 2019 Audi Q8 quattro